Birthday Trip – Salinas, CA to San Diego, CA
Blog entry 10/8 for Wednesday, Sep 24.
Moving right along… The big tourist thing on this day’s calendar was touring the Hearst Castle at San Simeon.
I had heard about it, of course (who hasn’t?), but this is was my first visit. Ali wanted to take the Grand Rooms Tour and (if possible) the Upstairs Suites Tour. If we had had the time, I would have gladly booked both, as well as the Cottages and Kitchen Tour, but the website says to allow an hour between tours if you’re going to do more than one. I didn’t know exactly what that meant – an hour from the start of one to the start of the next? An hour from the *end* of one to the start of the next? – because there is a 15-minute bus ride (with narration by Alex Trebec) from the Visitors Center to the Castle (and another 15 minutes back to the Visitors Center), and I thought maybe we had to return to the Visitors Center to catch another complete loop if we wanted to do another tour. As it turned out, they meant an hour from the start of one tour to the start of the next, because once you were at the Castle, you could end one tour, walk back to the bus-unloading point, and join the next tour. But even then we wouldn’t have had enough time to do more than one tour, so now Ali and I have an excuse to go back.
The Castle reminded me of Biltmore, in Asheville, NC. Probably, if I had seen them in reverse order, it would be the other way around, with Biltmore reminding me of the Castle. The biggest difference between them, aside from their sizes, is that Biltmore is a complete structure, whereas the Castle was never finished. At W.R.’s death, it was estimated to be about 50% complete. Just what does “never finished” mean? I’m glad you asked! The picture on the “Facts and Stats” page of the Castle Website shows the wing in the background is complete, including its tile roof, while the one in the foreground has no finishing roof and some of the windows are blocked off. I took some pictures of my own that show some of the “incompleteness.”
In this shot you can see where the stone veneer stops below the balcony-like trim in the center, while the structure to the right is unpainted stucco. The very far right sliver is just bare concrete. The house, by the way, was built of reinforced concrete and then a stone veneer was added to the outside. On the inside, the concrete was scored to look like stone blocks (or so the tour guide told us).
This photo shows the East (?) Wing. The concrete is painted on the left but not on the right, and you can see where stone trim should be around the windows but isn’t. You can also see, to the far right, where the stone trim *has* been applied to the building, but there’s no window behind it – the space has been blocked off like the two large windows on the top floor.
This shot shows a retaining wall below where the North Wing would have been built. As you can see (at the extreme right, and at the left behind the gentleman’s head), there is wiring for light fixtures that were never installed. This shot also includes a bas-relief that was never installed.
On the inside, of course, the rooms we saw were quite opulently furnished, with everything from European antiques to high-quality pieces bought at stores in San Francisco. Mr. Hearst wanted his guests to have comfortable places to relax. You can see examples of both types of chair in this picture of the (I think) refectory.
As the guide said, the house is an accredited California museum, so “feel free to touch … ab-so-lute-ly NOTHING.” She also requested that we stay on the Museum-installed carpets, and use only the black iron railings – not the stone ones! It’s an absolutely magnificent place, and I’d really like to go back there again (along with just about every other place we visited on the trip).
After the Castle tour was complete, we got back on CA 1, which eventually ran back into US 101, which took us to Los Angeles and I-5, which we followed to San Diego. Another late night (a recurring theme of the trip), but at least we didn’t have to get up early the next morning – Sea World doesn’t open until 10!